A fresh perspective on the Vineyard

"Magic Hour" by Brandon Newton. — Photo courtesy of Brandon Newton

Two months ago, North Water Gallery in Edgartown moved a couple of doors up the block and, although the new space is less than half the size of the old, the gallery has managed to provide a diverse selection of work in an open, inviting space without any clutter. The new gallery has two rooms, a front light-filled expanse and, in the back a couple of steps up from the main room, a room entirely dedicated to prestigious Island artist Ray Ellis.

The master watercolorist’s work hangs on the walls in a cozy space set up like a den with a faux fireplace, Oriental carpet, model ships, and a few paintbrushes propped in a pewter cup. It’s the perfect setting for the nonagenarian artist whose work has decorated official White House Christmas cards and paired with essays by the artist’s friend Walter Cronkite in two collaborative coffee table books.

While the mainstay of the old guard of Vineyard artists is established in the one room, down below in the main gallery, a handful of new up-and-coming artists share the space with other more established members of the Vineyard arts community.

Two of these young artists — Traeger di Pietro and Kenneth Vincent — will be the feature of the first show at the new location. While both artists have perfectly captured Island scenes in a way that only those intimately familiar with the Vineyard could, their styles are miles apart.

For the upcoming show in Edgartown, Mr. di Pietro has created a series of new works primarily focused on working fishermen. (See article on C10 for more on Mr. di Pietro.)

Artist Ken Vincent is a member of one of the most established Vineyard families. His Island roots go back hundreds of years. He was raised on his family farm in West Tisbury and left the Island only to attend the Rhode Island School of Design, returning full time to draw and paint his childhood home.

Mr. Vincent, like Mr. Di Pietro, has captured off-the-beaten-path scenes — ocean coves and isolated fields. However, his unique style is a polished primitive with bold colors, crisp outlines, and somewhat flattened plains. His oils are striking and evocative, capturing the solitude of the Vineyard in the quiet moments.

“I think this show is going to be packed with color and such a different perspective of similar subject matter,” commented gallery manager Robin Nagle.

While both these young artists have shown at North Water and/or The Granary for a couple of years now, this is the first show dedicated to their work.

Another young artist is making his Vineyard gallery debut this year at North Water. Brandon Newton moved full time to the Island this year after developing a following in his home state of Virginia. Two years ago he received a sponsorship to visit Martha’s Vineyard and after multiple return visits decided to relocate to the Island with his wife and family. “We came and it just exceeded every expectation,” Mr. Newton said. “You can’t get a real sense of the Island unless you come in the off season.”

His is the eye of a newcomer entranced by the magic of the Vineyard. He has been primarily focusing on views of the Menemsha harbor — a scene that has drawn him back over and over again. “Menemsha to me is just raw,” he said. “It’s just the closest thing to what I was looking for here — that juxtaposition of man and nature boiled down.”

Mr. Newton’s style is somewhat expressionistic. His bold skies are speckled with flecks of color laid on with a palette knife. He favors striking combinations of pastels and dark tones. Many of the Menemsha works are nighttime studies. With these he captures the draw of a seascape that has enthralled visitors for years.

There’s an energy to the paintings and a sense of childlike wonder. There’s a sense of awe in the massive trawlers representing such potential for power and activity, though viewed at rest in the still, calm hours of the evening. Mr. Newton loves the play of light on a quiet night scene — the illuminated spots lending drama to his nighttime scenes.

The artist has also captured other scenes such as an Edgartown church with a pink flowering tree in full spring bloom, and a sunrise scene featuring a sky striated with every color in the pastel spectrum, set off by a dark tree line. Mr. Newton has also created a series of miniature paintings on easels, which sell for $100 and $150. For these he uses leftover paint from larger works in order to avoid waste and to provide an affordable option. “I love when my art can be in anyone’s home.”

Mr. Newton is definitely a new Island artist to keep an eye on. “Brandon came in with his portfolio after his first season on the Vineyard,” recalled Ms. Nagle. “I saw such a promising young painter. I was excited to add him to our repertoire of artists.”